Almost every country in the world has an association with dragons, but the main divide is East and West and this
is reflected in the dragon tattoos of the two hemispheres. A fairly accurate generalization is that Eastern dragon
tattoo designs are friendly, whereas Western dragon tattoo designs are often fierce. If you are interested in
dragon tattoos, you first need to work out what your attitude towards dragons is!
In the East, dragons look more like serpents with wings as you have seen them in the Chinese New Year festivals
and parades. In the west, they are squarer or more rectangular like a big cow. Chinese dragons are associated with
water, whereas Western dragons live in caves called lairs.
The most popular form of dragon tattoos in the West are of Celtic design, although the dragon can be found in
the legends of countries from Turkey to Norway. The Celtic dragons were centred mainly on mythology from Wales.
Scotland and Ireland may have a few fairy stories including dragons, but I have never heard of them.
In early British Celtic history, the Celts lived all over Britain, until the Romans pushed them into the
extremities of the country about 2,000 years ago. The Angles and the Saxons arrived about 400 years after that to
fill the void left by the departing Romans.
This is important to know, because Celtic folklore includes present-day England although it did not exist then
as England. Druids and princes ruled the country and they worshipped nature and especially trees, which were in
Much of Britain was dense forest then and the druids went into the forests to carry out their acts of worship. A
lot of Celtic folklore symbols included the vine, which hung everywhere and many of the stories involved dragons
living in caves deep in the woods.
There is no evidence that people or druids wore tattoos, but Julius Caesar said that the Celts painted
themselves a lot. He led the invasion force just over 2,000 years ago. It would not be too much a stretch of the
imagination to think that people did wear dragon tattoos if they were into body art.
The fact is though that may Welshmen and people of Welsh descent like to wear Welsh dragon tattoos. The
Welsh tribal dragon tattoos would be of 'Y Ddraig Goch' (the Welsh Red Dragon), as is on the Welsh flag. The Welsh
Red Dragon is the only dragon in the West that I know of that is thought of as amiable or friendly.
The purpose of the Red Dragon is to lead the Welsh against adversity and so to that end, it is a fierce dragon,
but it is not meant to be fierce to the Welsh and their friends.
If you want to have one of the thousands of dragon tattoos that have become very popular over the last few
years, make sure that the tattoo artist you choose understands the type of dragon you want and can do that style of
Some tattoo parlours specialize in Celtic folklore dragon art, so if you want an intricate design, go to an
expert in dragon tattoos as opposed to flower designs.
by +Owen Jones